Canny idea from university means braw day for Scots
IT IS a braw day for the Scots tongue today, as a gallus new project is to be launched by Glasgow University to help revitalise the language.
From today, the most detailed analysis to date of the Scots language will be accessible on the internet.
Containing 400 texts, the Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech project (SCOTS), aims to help instil in Scots, both native and expatriate, a pride in their national identity, as well as to try to halt the decline of the language, which unlike Gaelic receives relatively little promotion.
It has taken researchers from Glasgow University three years to compile the archive from all areas of Scots culture. Ranging from broad Scots to Scottish English, examples of prose, poetry, drama, essays and correspondence are included, along with additional audio and video material.
All texts will come accompanied with cultural and social commentary and analysis about the work and its author.
Expected to be used in the main by researchers, teachers and interested members of the public, the corpus contains a total of half a million words from all walks of life.
Dr Wendy Anderson, from the Department of English Language at the University of Glasgow, said: "We’re interested in the currency of distinctively Scottish words, such as gallus, canny, muckle, sonsie and braw. All Scots know these words; indeed they are often used to stereotype the people of Scotland, but are they actually still used? By whom? Where? In what contexts?
"And what about the grammatical features of Scots? Some people might frown on yous as a plural form of you, but research shows it’s overwhelmingly common in spoken language and written representations of speech."
Dr Anderson said the online resource, which has been three years in the making, will help instil pride about being Scottish and increase self-awareness.
"We need to preserve information on minority languages, such as Scots, for future generations," she added. "You might say it’s been a muckle and gallus undertaking."
The SCOTS project is ongoing, and the University of Glasgow is looking for more donated, written or spoken, texts in the language.
This is the first time that such a large collection of diverse texts in the Scots language have been brought together online, and the most detailed analysis yet of differences within language north of the border.
The most famous use of the language was by Robert Burns, who wrote most of his poetry and verse in it. However, from the late 15th century up to the Act of Union in 1707, Scots was the lingua franca of Scotland. It was only as political ties with England became tighter that the language fell out of favour.
As the aristocracy became more anglicised, Scots became the tongue of the peasantry and in the 1872 Education Act, English became the official language for classes.
The government continued to discourage its use, even going so far during the 1940s as to describe Scots as the language of the "uneducated".
However, several organisations have been formed over the past century to attempt to preserve the language, which is officially recognised by the European Union. During the 1990s, the government’s hostile policy towards it was changed and its place recognised in the school curriculum.
The SCOTS project corpus is available for free at www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk from today.
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